Policy Perceptions and the Local Food Movement in the Upstate

Local food movement

The local foods movement has been gaining ground in the Upstate of South Carolina over the last decade as farmer’s markets have become trendy and stores like the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery and Whole Foods, which sell local produce, are becoming popular places to shop.  After four years of studying environmental science and policy, I have found my passion in small-scale agriculture and federal agriculture policy. This summer, I have been working with Dr. Quinn and Dr. Halfacre to explore an extensive data set of interviews with farmers in the Upstate.  We seek to investigate the extent to which farmers’ perceptions of the regulatory environment impact their interactions with consumers and how the local food movement’s emphasis on personal relationships and transparency is impacting consumer/farmer interactions on their farms. The goal is to conceptualize “openness” and “closedness” in the context of the local farm. An open farm would be one in which the public was welcome to visit, take tours, and pick their own produce. A closed farm would be one in which only certified personnel would be allowed near the crops as a result of food safety concerns.

Policy decisions made at the federal and state levels impact the everyday lives of farmers, influencing how they spend their money, where they can sell their produce, and whom they can invite onto their farms. Pressures from consumers and vendors for farms to become GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) or USDA Organic certified may impact how farmers interact with consumers due to recently enforced food safety regulations.  Farmers’ perceptions of how these policies apply to their farms have broad implications for farmer/consumer interactions and thus the development of the character of the local foods movement.  I hope to use this research project as a vehicle to better understand the interactions between the variety of actors involved in the local food movement in the Upstate while at the same time applying general behavioral trends to local foods movements all over the country.

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